Sunday, August 5, 2012

My guest, Marilyn Meredith

I'm excited to have Marilyn Meredith as my guest.  Marilyn is the author of over thirty published novels, including the award winning Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series, the latest Bears With Us from Mundania Press. Writing as F. M. Meredith, her latest Rocky Bluff P.D. crime novel is No Bells from Oak Tree Press. Marilyn is a member of EPIC, three chapters of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America.  

Today she talks about authors using their own experiences, especially their fears, in writing.
Marilyn Meredith

Do Any of Your Fears or Experiences Show up in your Mysteries?
I’ve often wondered if mystery writers ever incorporate their own fears or experiences into the stories they write. It certainly would be a way to reach inside oneself to bring up the emotions the hero or heroine might feel when coming across the same object or situation that the author himself or herself fears.
For instance, if spiders make your skin crawl, would you have your hero or heroine be confronted by a horde of spiders? What if snakes in habit your nightmares, would you put a deadly snake in the path our protagonist must take in order to find a clue?
This gives you the idea of where I’m going. I wonder when I’m reading a chilling mystery, if some of the horror that main character must confront or overcome is one that the writer harbors.
Someone who is afraid of spiders, scorpions, lizards or snakes should never live where I do. We have lots of all these unsavory critters. I can easily dispatch the first  two without a qualm, I’ve swept many a lizard out the door, and have learned to make enough noise when traipsing around outside, that a nearby rattler will sound its warning.
What am I afraid of? Frankly, the older I get the less frightened I am of most anything. I can get around in the dark pretty darn well. I’m not afraid of things that go bump in the night. I live in an old house and it makes bumping noises all the time. And no, I’m not afraid of ghosts either. My grandkids all say my house is haunted, and it may well be. Doors open and shut on their own, but who cares? Ghosts can’t hurt you—especially if you’re not afraid of them. Frankly, I love writing about ghosts and they’ve been characters in several of my books.
What I might confess to being a bit afraid of is a catastrophe like a forest fire like what has been going on around my state and others, or a major earthquake which is always a possibility in California. I am not anticipating either, but who knows? Both of these disasters do make good fodder for a mystery. We’ve had some major flooding at times where I live, and I’ve used what could happen in the Deputy Tempe book that’s due out in the fall, called Raging Water.
My latest Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery, No Bells, revolves around a loved one being accused of murder. That would be a horrible experience for anyone and fortunately not one I’ve had. In this story, it’s the woman that Officer Gordon Butler has fallen for. He’s determined to clear his name even if it means losing his job.
What about experiences?
If you’ve ever been burglarized you know the feeling of being violated even though you weren’t home when the burglar was going through your belongings.
A death in the family is always traumatic, but it does give you the insight and knowledge if what one goes through when a loved one dies. Sometimes I think writers (books and movies) don’t spend enough time showing what a tremendous effect death has on all the loved ones left behind.
I’ve barely covered the surface of our own fears and experiences that could turn up in a mystery.
How about sharing your fears? Or an experience that would make good fodder for a mystery.

The Deputy Tempe Crabtree series can be purchased from the usual places and also directly from Mundania Press at


  1. Actually, I did incorporate an insect in Two Wrongs, my debut mystery, but not in a fearful way. The DH had once mentioned about not killing insects if you could help it, and that idea stuck with me, and I try to follow it when possible. So, in my book, the hero saw I spider on the wall and his girlfriend at the time wanted to save its life, instead of killing it.
    I try to do the same by trapping insects in cups when I can, but draw the line on really nasty looking spiders.

    Morgan Mandel

  2. I have a tremendous fear of heights. I'd rather swim with a school of sharks than find myself on a mountain cliff road. I've bestowed this phobia onto my protagonist in my Kate Caraway mystery series (yet to be published). In the second book, Two Horse Town, Kate is in the Pryor Mountains. There's a chase scene on switchback roads 1,000 feet above the basin. She still hasn't forgiven me. Great subject, Marilyn. Thanks, Leslie, for hosting Marilyn.

  3. This is a fine post, Marilyn and Lesley. A good mystery must turn the pages for the reader, and fear does the trick. It lends great authenticity if the writer is writing from his or her own phobias. Fear of heights and fear of drowning are both driving forces in my Yucatan suspense novel, SWIMMING IN THE DEEP END. I can't say I worked through my fears while I was writing the book, but I was brave enough to exploit them.

  4. Great post, Lesley and Marilyn.
    It's interesting because someone recently asked me why I used a "strangler" as the serial killer in "Mixed Messages." I had to think about that for a minute but I finally replied, "Because that scares the pants off me and, since I write mysteries, I wanted something that would have the same effect on my readers.

  5. What now scares he pants off me are floods since I was caught in one last year. I guess that'll show up in my writing soon.

  6. Oh, Morgan, insects don't bother me the least--used to until I lived in a place that abounds in them.

    Kathleen, I'm with you on heights. I used to love going up in the mountains--but no way can I be the driver if there are drop-offs. Even when riding with others, I have to shut my eyes.

    Now swimming is not a phobia of mine. When I was younger I loved to swim in the ocean, been in riptides--got out of them by swimming away from them rather than fighting. Thank you, John for sharing.

    Any kind of killer is plenty scary, Patricia--and a serial killer all the more.


  7. I think you're right, Marilyn. The older we become, the fewer things scare us. I do have a fear of mountain driving though, which I've never been able to get past. I'm the opposite of you in that I need to be the one driving and I feel a little safer. And I don't like flying because I want something, even if it's a tire, to be touching the ground.

  8. Hi Marilyn,

    I loved this post. The only creepy crawly I incorporated into my first mystery, Resort to Murder, was a snake. Maybe i missed the mark. The book is set in Orlando, Florida (write about what you know) and I was a basket case when we lived in Orlando, even resorting to a police department hypnotist to help me with a fear of insects that was growing faster than a stage four tornado in Missouri.

    I"m getting older and, unlike you and Marja, I am still scare easily. The dentist really gets to me...

  9. I still scare easily also. but I'm not frightened of the same things I used to be. I've never found insects or spiders scary. I don't like snakes, but I don't get as creeped out as I used to. One of the most frightening things I can remember is a dream Ihad as a child in which there were a pack of wolves or panthers coming to get me. I think it was the impending event that was most terrifying. In the dream I remember looking out my bedroom window and watching for them to come over the hill.

    Thanks, Marilyn, for stimulating our thinking about reaching inside ourselves for writing ideas.

  10. I'm reading "Wild" by Cheryl Strayed, her memoir of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. She runs into rattlesnakes, a fox, bears -- and she's only 26 years old at this time in her life. I don't think I do anything like that. Wasps scare me, and jelly fish, and raccoons who pay me regular visits. I've been up close to grizzly bears and their cubs in Alaska (protected from them in Denali on a bus) and to wolves in Montana -- so close, yet they didn't come closer, just howled so we would all stay away. Don't think I'll write too much about all these critters; I'll leave it to all you mystery writers. Thanks so much for the fine interview.